Whilst the police are expected to uphold law and order, and prevent crimes such as harassment, there is evidence that officers do occasionally overstep the mark and harass citizens. Examples of harassment include excessive use of stop and search, detention before release without charge and making false charges. Knowing your rights when stopped by police is one way of preventing on-going harassment.
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Cooperate with the police if their actions are reasonable. This is one method of reducing the possibility of harassment. Police officers do have certain powers if they suspect you of having committed an offence and it is better to cooperate initially. You should give personal details such as your name and address and try to remain courteous.
Know your rights under stop and search laws. A police officer must have reasonable ground for suspicion to instigate a stop and search in most areas. Ask why you are being searched and if the officer cannot give a reason then the search should not go ahead. If the officer continues without giving you a reason, you can make a complaint against the police. However, under the Terrorism Act 2000, some areas are designated stop and search areas and the police can stop people without the need for reasonable suspicion.
Contact the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) to make a complaint if you are being harassed. You should keep a note of all the times you are stopped by police as evidence. Try and get the numbers of the officers who have caused you problems and keep a written record of the conversations.
Seek legal advice if the complaints process does not stop harassment. Police officers are not above the law and should be subject to the same legal processes as other citizens if they break the law. Use a solicitor that specialises in civil rights or human rights law.
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